North Korea: Otto Warmbier's death is a 'mystery'

Cheryl Sanders
June 25, 2017

In its first official comment following his death, Pyongyang says Warmbier was "a victim of the policy of strategic patience" of then-US President Obama, whose administration never requested his release, an unnamed North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement to the official KCNA agency, released Friday and seen by Reuters, AFP and AP.

Doctors said the University of Virginia student had suffered severe brain damage while in North Korean detention. The young student was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor two months later at a tearful public trial, immediately after which he, for reasons unknown, fell into a coma. Warmbier returned home on June 13 and died Monday.

Its official news agency, KCNA, quoted a government source as saying: 'Our relevant agencies treat all criminals in accordance with domestic laws and worldwide standards and Warmbier was not an exception'.

Warmbier, 22, died in a USA hospital after North Korea released him for "humanitarian reasons".

KCNA alleged that Warmbier received "humanitarian" treatment throughout his almost 18 months in custody, in accordance with North Korean law.

"The fact that Warmbier died suddenly in less than a week just after his return to the U.S. in his normal state of health indicators is a mystery to us as well", the spokesman said. "To make it clear, we are the biggest victim of this incident", he said, calling the accusations of abuse "groundless".

On Thursday, approximately 2,500 people gathered to pay their respects at Otto's high school near Cincinnati.

Beijing says it does not have any influence and "recent actions by the North suggest that may be the case", says the Daily Telegraph. "It's nearly just trying to reach out for sports and see if I can bring sports to North Korea", Rodman said.

Kenneth Bae, an American who was jailed for almost two years in North Korea, told CNN he believed Warmbier could have been tortured, and cautioned other Americans against going to North Korea.

It also accused Seoul of tarnishing Pyongyang's image with its "slanderous talk about cruel treatment and torture" while having no knowledge of the "humanitarian" treatment Mr Warmbier received in the North.

Fred Warmbier has called on North Korea to release other American detainees. "Today we're seeing the good, and the love that will be expressed through this outpouring of support for Otto and his family", Portman said.

The bill, introduced late last month by Representatives Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, and Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, would ban tourist travel to North Korea and require a license from the Treasury Department for any other travel to North Korea.

A negotiator involved in Warmbier's release said his Jewishness was hidden as a tactic because he was accused by Pyongyang of acting on behalf of the United Methodist Church.

Other reports by iNewsToday